The 2019 Ministerial Segment: Key wins, remaining challenges, and next steps for advocacy
2019 marked the expiry date for the targets set out in the 2009 UN Political Declaration and Plan of Action to ‘eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably’ illicit drug cultivation, trafficking, consumption and money laundering. In 2017, UN member states agreed to ‘convene a ministerial segment open to all States Members of the United Nations and interested stakeholders…to take stock of the implementation of the commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem, in particular in the light of the 2019 target date’. Held on 14 and 15 March 2019, the event included a plenary thematic debate that featured more than 120 country statements, as well as two roundtables, one to ‘take stock’ of the past decade, the other on ‘safeguarding the future’ of global drug policy.
Held only three years after the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, the event was a critical moment for member states to define the next decade of UN drug policy. It was clear early on in this process that member states did not want to embark in lengthy negotiations for a new substantive policy document, and as a result most of the negotiations revolved around whether to focus the next 10 years of drug control on UNGASS implementation, or on a reaffirmation of the 2009 Political Declaration, or a mix of both. At the core of these discussions was a fundamental disagreement over whether or not to extend the 2009 goals to ‘significantly reduce or eliminate’ the illicit drug market, given the clear lack of progress towards achieving any reduction in the global drug trade. A compromise was eventually reached in the form of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration on ‘strengthening our actions and the national, regional and international levels to accelerate the implementation of our joint commitments to address and counter the world drug problem’ – as will be further explained below. A new 10-year timeline running until 2029 was also agreed, with a mid-term review in 2024.
The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) saw the Ministerial Segment as a critical moment for advocacy, as the event – which would pave the way for the next 10 years of drug control – was an opportunity to consolidate and build upon the progress made at the UNGASS in 2016. As had been the case in 2016, the IDPC network came together early in the process to strategise and delineate ‘policy asks’ for the high-level event (see page 1).
Now that the dust has settled on the Ministerial Segment and its resulting Declaration, this advocacy note evaluates the key wins and challenges from the Ministerial Segment against these four policy asks – and offers recommendations on next steps for civil society advocacy.